Why we don’t need TUPD

The time to have hard conversations about the police is now. It was also five, 10, 20 and 100 years ago, but they need to happen now because the same things keep happening.

Less than a month ago, five Memphis Police Department officers brutally murdered Tyre Nichols and then blatantly lied about it. Yet again, conservatives have attempted to shift the narrative by fear-mongering about riots and focusing on the fact that the officers in question were Black, which I feel the need to quickly address.

From the conservative perspective, any nuances about how police culture and training cause biases against people of color, regardless of the race of the officer, do not matter. The cops were Black, and thus this incident could not possibly be racist in nature.

If my sarcasm wasn’t evident enough, these lines of reasoning are exactly the reason why I’ve argued in the past that conservatives don’t deserve to be taken seriously. With that out of the way, it would be pertinent to address reality.

Data has consistently shown that people of color, particularly Black people, are vastly more likely to be targeted by police than white people. Black people are over three times more likely to be killed by police, especially in metropolitan areas, and are more likely to be stopped or searched by police.

We also know that police are rarely meaningfully punished for wrongdoings: they routinely lie in their reports, falsify evidence and bend the law to increase their number of arrests without consequence. Data also suggests that police aren’t particularly good at reducing or solving crimes and generally spend most of their time on traffic and noncriminal calls and stops.

All of that influences my opinion that police are systemically inclined to do more societal harm than good. It’s not just a matter of a few bad apples in the police force, but of a rotten system of practices and values that are the backbone of the police force.

With that in mind, I would like to shift focus to the blue uniforms here on campus, the Trinity University Police Department (TUPD). They’re best known for writing parking tickets, not resolving car break-ins, giving out popcorn and occasionally helping people with things such as jumping cars or being locked out of dorm rooms.

Overall, as far as I’m aware, TUPD has been the subject of tepid controversy at best, so you may be wondering why I mentioned them. Their former Assistant Chief getting arrested in 2021 for soliciting prostitution may be fitting for Trinitonian’s Love and Sex edition, but they’re fairly negligible in the grand scheme of things.

One reason is, to be blunt, TUPD is not necessary for campus safety and does not need to exist. Even if you think policing is broadly necessary, all of the functions of TUPD can either be performed by people who aren’t cops or by city officers on the rare occasion that something serious happens.

Aside from that, despite the fact that TUPD is not particularly known for harassment or violence, they are still cops. They are state-certified, meaning they go through police training involving tactics that escalate situations and promote systemic racism. This means, due to their training and all of their colleagues having done the same training, they are likely susceptible to the same flaws that cause all of the issues previously mentioned.

As such, when I see TUPD cops all over campus open-carrying guns while casually occupying spaces frequented by students, I recall that roughly 55% of Trinity students are white and only 4% are Black. This is cause for concern as it relates to TUPD because it means that the lack of diversity in their surroundings may reinforce their prejudices.

I am, by no means, accusing TUPD of anything specific. I am saying, however, that the presence of cops on campus is at best practically useless, and at worst could be a threat to students of color.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but wider trends in U.S. policing and conversations I’ve had on campus have concerned me. The functions performed by TUPD do not need to be done by cops, or anybody wielding guns for that matter, and I firmly believe that this campus would be best served if they were removed entirely.